Breaking the Incubus? The Tripartite Free Trade Agreements and the Prospects of Developmental Integration in Africa

  • Samuel O. Oloruntoba
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 71)


The search for viable governance architecture and sustainable development strategies has seen African leaders make several attempts and policy pronouncements on forming integration arrangements on the continent. Major continental development agendas such as the Lagos Plan of Action and Final Act of Lagos of 1980, the Abuja Treaty of 1991 and the New Partnership for African Development, 2001, all had regional integration as major planks on which development processes should rest. However, due to a combination of several factors such as the paradox of narrow nationalism and pan-Africanism, which fuel divisions among African political elites on the best approach and sequence of integration, overlapping membership of regional economic communities, bondage of boundaries, preoccupation with the European integration theoretical approach and active efforts by Western powers to undermine the best efforts, regional integration has not taken root, neither has it delivered on its potential for development in Africa. However, in June 2015, three of the major regional economic communities in Africa, namely, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) signed an agreement to form a Tripartite Free Trade Area, geared towards fostering higher intra-Africa trade. With a population of 632 million people, gross domestic product of about $1.2 trillion and a large land mass four times the size of Europe, the TFTA holds a huge but challenging potential for economic development on the continent. Can the TFTA break the incubus of unsuccessful integration efforts in Africa? What are the challenges and the prospects of the new agreement in terms of political will, institutional capacity and capital requirements to carry through the terms of the agreement? How can the African Union leverage on the historic agreement to foster both economic and non-economic integration on the continent? This chapter is located within the competing theories of regional integration. It employs the political economic analysis of transnationalism as well as ideational framework of pan-Africanism to interrogate the prospects as well as the challenges of integration in Africa through the lens of the TFTA. It concludes that regional integration has become imperative for achieving development on the continent, especially in the light of the decline in the visibility of the multilateral governance architecture of trade, the global revival of regional integrative arrangements between advanced countries and between them and developing countries, as well as the weak capacity of many of the states in Africa to foster development. The TFTA may yet provide a strong springboard on which the proposed Continental Free Trade Area and the African Economic Community could be built.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, University of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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